Chapter 03 - Breakthrough

1984 - 1988


One of the cast members of Happy Days turned out to be Ron Howard. He had already left the show when Tom Hanks appeared in it but as he was working on his next project, someone let him know about Tom Hanks, “I heard how good he was. I watched part of three episodes [of Bosom Buddies]. His timing was just impeccable, he was great.” 1
After the audition, where Ron Howard would later explain that he was “at a performance level” 1, Tom Hanks was cast for the leading role of the romantic comedy Splash, though he first auditioned for John Candy’s part. Splash was the very first Touchstone’s movie picture and dealt with a man falling in love with an actual mermaid, played by Daryl Hannah.

“He was enormously entertaining, you couldn’t keep your eyes off him, he had the intangible charisma” 1, said Brian Grazer. The movie was a real success and proving a likable and engaging screen presence, Tom Hanks seemed assured of becoming successful in other romantic comedies.

More performances in films quickly ensued, including a role in Bachelor Party (1984) and The Man with One Red Shoe (1985). Still in 1985, Tom Hanks starred in Volunteers, opposite John Candy with whom he had already worked on Splash, and Rita Wilson... Even though the movie was not a real success, Tom Hanks got to meet again the one who would become his wife a few years later. It was on the set of Volunteers that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson became friends, and their friendship soon went to another level, though he was still married to Samantha Lewes.

“Rita and I just looked at each other and - ka-boing - that was that. Well, yeaaaaaaaah, I did happen to be married at the time. And there's nothing to celebrate about that. But the reality is, it was a young marriage and a difficult marriage. I had two kids, great kids. And I wasn’t so naive not to think that there were going to be repercussions. But I knew what was and was not. I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn't be denied.” 2

Tom Hanks starred in other comedies such as The Money Pit (1986), produced by Steven Spielberg, in a romantic drama set during World War II, Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986), and in Dragnet (1987), a parody movie version of the TV series.

In 1986, Tom Hanks starred in Garry Marshall’s Nothing in Common, alongside Jackie Gleason, which would be his last movie role. It was the first time that Tom Hanks had been included that early in the process of making the movie by the director and though it was not a tremendous hit at first, it became more popular as Tom Hanks's fame grew. The film is considered by some to be the pivotal role in Tom Hanks's career because it marked his transition from less developed comedic roles to becoming a leading actor in more serious films. The movie dealt with David Basner, a successful advertising executive who is suddenly confronted to his parents’ divorce after 36 years of marriage. He must then cope with the downfall of his family and his life and his father's illness. The movie had a lot in common with Tom Hanks’s real experience.

“When the time came to show the movie to my dad I said 'Listen p'pa, you're all over this thing so just bear that in mind in the scenes where I might be talking to Jacky Gleason but there's a number of lines that I'm actually saying straight at you'.” 3

On a personal level, not wanting his children to go through what he had gone through with the divorce of his parents, Tom Hanks tried to save his five-year marriage with Samantha Lewes but in vain. They divorced in 1987 and Tom Hanks married Rita Wilson the next year, on April 30, 1988.
Samathan Lewes Dillingham, mother of Colin and Elizabeth, was 49 when she died of bone cancer in Sacramento, California, on March 12, 2002.

1 : AFI Interview
2 : Esquire, June 2006
3 : Inside the Actors Studio, September 1999